Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Book Review (#33 of 2014) Fun Loving You by Ted Cunningham

Fun Loving You: Enjoying Your Marriage in the Midst of the Grind is one of the best and easiest-to-read marriage books I have ever read. It was a free download for Valentine's Day, and a good decision.

Ted Cunningham is pastor at Woodland Hills Family Church in Branson, MO. He and his wife host an annual marriage retreat in Branson that touched the lives of people at our former fellowship in Southwest Missouri, and they tried to reproduce it in their own way every year. They are part of a center that try to heal marriages that are at the end of their rope. This book is a good preventative work to make sure your marriage doesn't reach that point.

Cunningham passes on wisdom he has applied from Gary Smalley, Emerson Eggerichs, and others. He uses Song of Solomon in a more succinct and much more accessible fashion than Tommy Nelson. (Differs from Nelson in his interpretation of various passages. I'm skeptical of both attempts to interpret, but personally prefer Cunningham's take). He passes on applicable ideas-- lists of activities and questions to ask your spouse-- that are marriage-strengtheners.

My wife and I often fail the "fun" test. It took me years to get Ted's point about my wife not being the "source of life," that I should want to alter or try to make different. He makes some good points about having God as our source of life and not being codependent. He addresses doubts about compatibility with the following quote from someone else:
"Character trumps chemistry and compatibility. Great marriages flow from character. A good match is a good start, but it will never sustain a thriving, intimate, and loving marriage. Only character does that." 

He has a good word on anger:
"Anger has three primary sources: hurt, fear, and frustration. Anger is a secondary emotion. It's not a primary emotion. You always feel something before you get angry. Those feelings are amplified when your heart is closed."

We're called to have open hearts with our spouses. He also includes advice on cultivating the marriage ahead of raising the children:

"When we prioritize the child's journey about our own marriage's, we circumvent God's design for the heart."

"I pass on to my spouse and children what I have on my heart. I am 100 percent responsible for my heart and this journey."
The Cunninghams take a "daily delay, a weekly withdrawal, and an annual abandon" in order to keep their marriage charged. He recommends keeping the "weekly withdrawals" (ie: date night) free from deep serious discussion, save those for the daily retreats or other times. The family do devotions and scripture memory every day. The parents work to make their home an "En Gedi" of peace for themselves.

About 25% of the book is about physical intimacy and its role in the "fun" marriage. It's nothing deep, just quite a bit of insight into he and his wife's lives... as in too much information.

The closing chapters deal with the role of church in marriage, the responsibility the local church has in helping couples it marries keep their vows. The last chapter is on death, with an exhortation to finish well.

The weaknesses of the book, in my opinion:
Having lived in the Ozarks, I know his message definitely resonates with the small-town conservatism found there. It may be harder to apply if both parents are working full-time jobs with a lot of travel demands or lack the resources to create the "fun" time. Dave Ramsey is highly esteemed but there are some families who are already in financial difficulties that need more than the "rah rah" in this book. If your marriage is in deep trouble, or one spouse isn't a Christian, this book may not be what you need-- although he does give some insights into how he counsels couples who are separated that I think solid. I disagree with the advice he gives young people, to go ahead and get married and not wait until after college or "maturity." In Missouri, the average undergraduate student I had in class got married at a much younger age, often right out of high school, than my own peer set in central Kentucky. It's a cultural thing in the Ozarks. I saw this as causing more conflict and unnecessary hardship and regret than what I would consider prudent.

Great book, highly recommend. Giving it 4 stars out of 5.

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